To determine a private hire/hackney carriage driver’s licence.
The Chair brought Item 5 forward in proceedings.
The Licensing and Compliance Officer stated that the applicant had originally been intending to attend the meeting but had been made aware of information recently received from Dundee City Council and had left the building.
Members agreed to consider this item in the absence of the applicant.
The Licensing and Compliance Officer gave a summary of the report. The applicant had applied for a private hire/hackney carriage driver’s licence on 2 January 2020 to work for 24x7 (Kent) Ltd on their school contracts. On his application form, in answer to question 12 ‘Have you ever been convicted of ANY offence (including motoring offences) including spent and unspent convictions in any Court or received a police caution?’ the applicant declared a SP30 offence from 1996. Part of the application process required applicants to produce an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Certificate and the applicant’s certificate dated 9 January 2020 showed 2 convictions.
The Licensing and Compliance Officer stated that there had been further contact with Dundee City Council and they had confirmed that he was currently awaiting trial for a number of very serious offences and as a result his licence had been suspended by them until the matter had been resolved. They had provided an email that outlined extremely serious matters and a copy had been given to the applicant prior to the meeting. The applicant now came before members for them to determine whether he was a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold a licence as he had not met the Council’s licensing standards.
Members reviewed the papers and considered the new evidence provided by Dundee City Council.
DECISION NOTICE –
The application before the Panel today is the applicant’s application for a joint hackney carriage/PHV driver’s licence. If successful, he has an offer of employment from 24 x 7 (Kent) Ltd on the school contract side of the business. He attended the Council’s offices on schedule this morning but then left after speaking with the Licensing Officer. We are therefore satisfied that he was aware of this hearing, could have remained and chose not to do so and therefore we proceed in his absence.
Question 12 of the form (a copy of which we have before us) asks “Have you ever been convicted of ANY offence (including motoring offences) including spent and unspent convictions in any Court, or received a police caution?” The applicant declared a 1996 SP30 speeding offence in response to this question.
However, the application process requires applicants to produce an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Certificate and the applicant’s, dated 09 January 2020, showed 2 convictions as follows:
· Conviction 1 – Offence – Fail to attend Diet on Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. Disposal – Sentence deferred 31.03.2015 admonished.
· Conviction 2 – Offence: Send a non-sexual offensive/indecent obscene/menacing message by means of public electronic communications on Communications Act 2003. Disposal – sentence deferred 28.11.2017, community payback order 80 hours unpaid work 80 hours within 6 months local authority Dundee.
These offences are under Scots law but we have no reason to believe that there is any great divergence between their constituent elements and the penalties available to the Courts from their English equivalents.
As a consequence, the applicant does not meet the requirements of the Council’s suitability policy on 2 points.
Firstly point 2.3 states ‘Any dishonesty by any applicant or other person on the applicant’s behalf which is discovered to have occurred in any part of any application process (e.g. failure to declare convictions, false name or addresses, falsified references) will result in a licence being refused, or if already granted, revoked and may result in prosecution”.
Furthermore, point 2.5 of the suitability policy states “Generally, where a person has more than one conviction, this will raise serious questions about their safety and suitability. The licensing authority is looking for safe and suitable individuals, and once a pattern or trend of repeated offending is apparent, a licence will not be granted or renewed”
The Licensing Department followed this up and met with the applicant. He wrote out a statement, a copy of which is among our papers, but in brief, said he had been a taxi driver in Dundee for 17 years and had only had a criminal record check on his initial application. When asked about the 2 convictions the applicant said that the first conviction related to an occasion when he had an argument with his wife. He was told by the police to leave the house that night and he later received a letter saying that he did not need to go to court and that the matter would be dealt with by him being admonished. We assume this is the equivalent of a caution. The second conviction was as a result of the contents of an email he sent to a social worker complaining about the way his daughter’s case was being dealt with.
The Licensing Department also made contact with Dundee City Council to confirm whether or not his assertions regarding their practices were correct. They responded to the effect that he was awaiting trial for a number of very serious offences and as a result his licence had been suspended by them until the matter was resolved. Scots law is different and they, unlike an English licensing authority, retain the power to suspend a licence in the employment law sense of the word. A copy of their email is before us and has also been served upon the applicant. He left the building this morning having being provided with a further copy of this document, which is before us, and the contents thereof speak for themselves. They reveal extremely serious matters and newspaper reportage of his other convictions also reveals a history of substance abuse. We cannot find him a fit and proper person to hold an Uttlesford licence and we decline to do so.
We have taken into account para1.6 of the Council’s policy which states ‘each case will always be considered on its merits having regard to the policy, and the licensing authority can depart from the policy where it considers it appropriate to do so.’ However, the primary function of this Committee is the protection of the public and this case leaves us with concerns.
First of all, the fact that the applicant has been licensed elsewhere is not binding upon us. Each licensing authority acts in accordance with its own policies and procedures and of course we note that Dundee City Council is working within a different legislative framework in any event. However, domestic offences are no less serious than those directed towards strangers and we cannot discount the first incident because of this: further, an intemperate response when under stress is also of some concern since if the applicant’s application before us today is successful he will be driving children and they can be extremely challenging passengers. Finally, we note the matters pending against him in Scotland and regret to say that these are so serious that we cannot consider his application favourably. We therefore refuse it.
There is a right of appeal against this decision which must be exercised within a period of 21 days. The applicant will receive a letter from the Legal Department explaining this.